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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Atlantis Chronicles #1 - March 1990

Comics Weekend "The Atlantis Chronicles" by Peter David and Esteban Maroto.

Of all the Aquaman comics that the Shrine has not yet covered (and that's a lot of books, despite almost four years of continuous posts), no series or run has been as requested as the 1990 maxi(mini?) series Atlantis Chronicles...which is a tad ironic, since Aquaman isn't even in it!

No, for those of you not familiar with the series, AC takes place hundreds, if not thousands, of years in the past, showing how the original people of Atlantis came to their tragic end, and how it all led, eventually, to the birth of the King of the Seven Seas, Aquaman.

This was a series I've always wanted to get to on the Shrine, but AC's sheer complexity of plot and length (seven double-sized issues featuring all unfamiliar characters) kept me from starting, since it was such a large undertaking. But now that I'm about to start picking up with our weekly examination of the Golden Age Aquaman's adventures (in...Adventure) I thought now was the time to go way, way back in Atlantean history:
The story of Atlantis is initially narrated by Albart of Ancinor, who is the first official keeper of the history of their civilization. This first issue with Albart being given the official designation by the King of Atlantis, Orin.

Albart is sure that Orin gave him the job to glorify Orin's exploits, but Albart--similar to Claudius in our history--is determined to tell the real story, warts and all. He also intends to reveal how much influence Orin's brother, the fair-haired Shalako, had in royal affairs.

Later, we see Orin and one his advisers, Rajar, talking. Rajar has been having visions of a great disaster in Atlantis' future, but Orin dismisses him (probably because he's busy getting a royal bath by several mostly-naked female servants).

But when an arrow arrives out of nowhere, plunging into the back of one of the women, Orin declares Atlantis is under attack!:
The Atlantean army attempts to hold off the invading horde, but Orin is furious when he sees Shalako using his seemingly magical powers to communicate with the gods, who send bolts of lightning down from the heavens, immolating most of the invaders. Orin doesn't like his brother involving the higher powers in such a manner, but Shalako convinces Orin he was right to do it.

Later, Orin convenes a meeting of his advisers, and suggests using the vast deposits of pumice in the area to build a giant dome over Atlantis, keeping their enemies at bay. Everyone goes along with it, except Shalako, who thinks it will only anger the gods. Dismissed, Shalako storms off, to fume and then pray to the gods to turn his brother from "this suicidal course."

Meanwhile, Orin concentrates on the other major thing on his mind: bearing a royal son:
As the dome is being built, Orin gets good news: his lover, Narmea, is pregnant!

Even more goods news: Shalako returns to the royal court, having seemingly decided to go along with the building of the dome:
The dome now constructed, the leader of the nearest adversaries arrives to make peace. Orin is willing to listen, but Shalako wants nothing to do with the savages. Orin prevails, saying he'll agree to peace...but he'll be watching.

The tribe's leader returns to his home, but Shalako, using the dark arts, sends down another lightning bolt, immolating him. Meanwhile, Rajar is more sure than ever that Atlantis is facing a catastrophe.

Later, Narmea gives birth to a daughter, Cora. To celebrate, he throws a week-long, city-wide party. Even though Cora is still a newborn, Orin is made an offer by Alloroc, the wealthiest man in the city: to betroth her to his son Bazil.

Before Orin can answer, a huge quake sends the people and buildings of Atlantis into chaos:
It ends quickly, but Rajar emerges to explain this is just the beginning: a giant meteoroid is headed for Atlantis, and its sheer gravity has already begun to affect them.

Shalako takes this a sign that his people have angered the god Suula, who is now taking her vengeance. Orin won't hear of it, and concentrates on the meteor. Rajar tells him it will arrive in less than a week.

Orin thinks Atlantis' high-powered laser cannon could destroy it, but calculations reveal it would have to be fired from outside the city, in the middle of the "savage"'s land. Orin doesn't think this will be a problem, since he agreed to peace with their leader...who hasn't been seen since he left Atlantis. Rajar offers to go there and try and make the deal.

The next day, Orin is awakened by a scream. He emerges from his bed chamber to see the savage's answer: Rajar's head on a spike just outside the city limits. Orin orders the cannon to be moved into position, and if the savages object? "Kill them...kill them all!"

The savages are suitably dispatched, the cannon is fired...which does nothing:
...to be continued!


Russell said...

This was The Holy Grail for me for YEARS. I finally got it about 2 years ago and when I sat down to read it...bleh. Totally not my cup of tea at all. :-(

Wings1295 said...

I read this not long after I got back into comics in the very late 80s/early 90s. Was the first comic series to show me there could be a level of depth and gravity to these worlds.

And it was a good story, if sometimes a bit confusing.

Joe Slab said...

Thanks rob! I have never read the ACs and appreciate your style of synopsis and review!

Luis said...

I have the entire series, and yes, the story is EPIC in scale and can be a bit confusing at times. Esteban Maroto's art really fits with the story of Atlantis and there was never a shortage of sexy ladies as is his trademark. Glad to see that the shrine has finally come around to reviewing this piece of Aqua-history, though it is probably no longer part of today's DC continuity.

Shellhead said...

Which is a damn shame. I loved the story, and PAD's carefully designed mythology allowed him to spin many new tales when he wrote Aquaman's most successful run (say what you will about the one-handed barbarian, it was Aquaman's longest run and most commercially successful period since the 60's). I thought AC was VERY welldone. You don't get comics like this anymore sadly.